WASHINGTON (February 3, 2009) -- The Natural Resources Defense Council named 13 natural areas and six associated wild species as “BioGems” today. These extraordinary and at-risk places stretch from the Arctic in Alaska to Patagonia in Chile. New to the list of BioGems are the Carrizo Plain National Monument in central California and the Peace-Athabasca Delta in Alberta, Canada, which are imperiled by oil and gas development. For the first time, NRDC has designated a country as a BioGem -- Costa Rica -- which is seeking to become the world’s first carbon-neutral nation.
"These BioGems are some of the last wild and unspoiled places left in the Western Hemisphere,” said Robert Kennedy, Jr., senior attorney at NRDC. “By naming these places as BioGems, NRDC is empowering hundreds of thousands of concerned individuals to take effective action to save these natural treasures for generations to come."
Since 2001, NRDC has campaigned to save more than 30 special natural places that offer sanctuary for endangered wildlife, curb global warming and provide livelihoods for local communities. NRDC redesigned its “Save BioGems” Web site with new features in order to more effectively mobilize online activists to protect these areas.
New NRDC BioGems
The Carrizo Plain National Monument is home to the greatest concentration of endangered species in California, including the California condor and the San Joaquin kit fox. Despite its designation as a National Monument, the Carrizo Plain is threatened by oil and gas drilling that could cause irreparable damage to critical wildlife and sensitive ecosystems. Vintage Production, an oil company, is planning to explore for oil reserves, using giant “thumper” trucks to send disruptive shock waves deep into the earth.
The Peace-Athabasca Delta is one of the world’s most important resting grounds for more than 1 million birds, including tundra swans, snow geese and countless ducks. For many waterfowl, this area is the only nesting ground. But Canada is ramping up tar sands oil extraction in the boreal forest just south of the delta, which could contaminate and reduce water flow into the delta, kill fish, and disturb habitat. Tar sands oil development also contributes to global warming, which has reduced ecologically important flooding in the delta.
In Costa Rica, NRDC is working with the Energy and Environment Ministry to identify measures to help the country meet its commitment of becoming the world's first carbon-neutral nation by 2021. NRDC also just signed an agreement with the national electric utility (Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad) on energy efficiency and renewable energy projects. In partnership with one of Latin America’s leading ecological facilities (Centro Agronómico Tropical de Investigación y Enseñanza) located in Costa Rica, NRDC has launched a rainforest rejuvenation project to plant 30,000 trees to restore a natural rainforest. These actions will help Costa Rica reaffirm its position as a global environmental leader and reduce pressure on its biodiversity and other natural areas.
“We have a new opportunity under the Obama administration to protect and save a number of our BioGems,” said Jacob Scherr, co-director of NRDC’s BioGems Initiative. “Places like the Tongass National Forest, Utah’s Redrock Wilderness, and wildlife like the polar bear remain in danger after eight years of reckless policies.”
Save BioGems Website
The newly redesigned Web site features a blog by NRDC wildlife experts; an action alert widget that can be embedded on social networks; interactive slideshows and video; and more Spanish-language content. The site also includes an “Action Log” where BioGems activists can track their actions and achievements in protecting these areas.
“The success of the BioGems initiative demonstrates the power of the Internet as a tool for conservation,” said Scherr. “Save Biogems has enabled people around the world to have a voice in protecting some of the most unique wild places in our hemisphere.”